The CSIR Meraka Institute's Open Source Centre, in conjunction with open source software (OSS) movement, the Kasi Open Source Society (KOSS), is opening a satellite office in Soweto today.

The project aims to encourage the township's open source enthusiasts to be part of software development, says Nhlanhla Mabaso, manager of the Open Source Centre.

The office will give those usually on the periphery of OSS development a chance to instigate development, says Mabaso.

"Areas populated by the poor are usually at the receiving end of innovations instead of conducting the research themselves," he says.

The CSIR is willing to put as much as R3 million into the satellite office to ensure the success of OSS development, says Mabaso.

"It is important to get this office off on a strong footing, as it needs to become an example of OSS development that can be extended into the rest of the continent," says Mabaso.

Minister of science and technology, Mosibudi Mangena, and Linux International's director John "Maddog" Hall will attend the event, says Mabaso.

Ntsika Msimang, satellite office area leader at the Open Source Centre, who will manage the new office, says Johannesburg is the IT hub of SA. Soweto hosts 65% of Johannesburg residents, and is alive with OSS enthusiasts, she says.

"We need to expose this talent and unleash it to create innovative solutions and a strong OSS African base."

Msimang explains that, by having an office in Soweto, researchers from the CSIR and OSS developers are better placed to understand the problems that face the continent.

One of the opening projects unveiled today is the Soweto Wireless Mesh Network initiative, aimed at improving Internet connection. The project will test the Internet as a service delivery channel in e-government initiatives, says Msimang.

"Without connectivity there isn't much you can contribute because the OSS development model is based on connectivity." The Soweto office will also research smart card technology and the free software model. "We will begin the translation of the Linux desktop KDE into 'township talk' or what others term 'tsotsi taal'," says Msimang.